7 steps to minimise risks to employees who work alone
Two serious risks faced by employees who work alone are violent attacks and hindered access to help in an emergency.
Even work tasks that generally would be safe if other people were present can become more hazardous if they are performed in isolation.
Every employer has a legal duty to take all reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or reduce the health and safety risks to employees, including those working alone.
Below are 7 measures employers can implement to reduce these risks.
Implement a working alone policy
This policy should explain:
- what jobs can and cannot be undertaken alone, e.g. work that involves electricity or working in confined spaces should not be conducted alone;
- the requirements for reporting-in when work performed alone is undertaken;
- whether specialised training is required for any tasks;
- the requirements for monitoring the location of workers in different work areas, e.g. a logbook;
- how often and by what means contact is to be made with a worker who is working alone, e.g. phone contact every 2 hours;
- the requirements for workers who are working alone to notify their supervisor if they will be out of contact for a specified period;
- how often risk assessments are to be carried out on workplaces where workers are working alone;
- the procedures for reporting and responding to an emergency; and
- when the policy will be reviewed and updated.
Provide training and instruction
Ensure your workers fully understand your working alone policy and know how to perform tasks safely when they are alone.
Regularly communicate with the worker
Communicate regularly with workers who are working alone and have an emergency plan in place if the worker fails to respond.
Plan for emergencies
Ensure you have an adequate emergency management plan (EMP) for all your workplaces, including vehicles if they are used to carry out work.
Thoroughly train your workers in your EMP if:
- the worker might be exposed to natural hazards, e.g. fire, flood or earthquake;
- the worker may be exposed to serious risks such as hazardous chemicals or explosions; or
- the worker is working in a remote location.
Implement personal security measures
Lighting, security cameras and alarms can act as deterrents for assault. Consider providing personal alarms if the risks are particularly high.
Monitor the worker
You can do this by:
- conducting regular site visits;
- enforcing the use of a log book; or
- requiring the worker to phone a supervisor periodically.
Also consider using a tracking system whereby the worker checks in every hour or more regularly. If no check-in is received, immediate assistance is sent to the worker.
If the employee is required to work in a remote area or another city, you may need to provide accommodation while the work is being carried out.
Ensure these premises do not expose workers to any health and safety risks.
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